Can I ask you something, Will says one night and I sure, ask me something.
“How do you know all this?”
“I’m a fucking librarian.”
fun fact about that line, beyond the “fuck, yeah!” of it in my heart: the verb between “I” and “sure” is missing in my ARC, so the quote is totes [sic], but i’m 2/3 convinced that the word was intentionally omitted. as the novel draws to its close (and that is on page 170 of the ARC’s 201 pages), and as the sense of anxiety and fragmentation that is the modern condition—in the novel’s world and our own—escalates, the number of ‘typos’—missing words, punctuation, etc, also increase, so they seem to be functioning as orthographic echoes of what is happening to the novel’s characters and
their our world—just one more example of everything falling apart. and maybe it’s a coincidence or a copyeditor rushing through the end, but it feels intentional, particularly since there’s an earlier line*, They say when you’re lonely you start to lose words... if i’m wrong, oh well, and you can blame NYU’s undergrad english program for conditioning me to look too hard at shit all those years ago. and to think it is acceptable to drop douchey phrases like “orthographic echoes” into a review. and now i have gone on a tangent just because i didn’t want anyone to think that missing word was because of my own carelessness. doubledouche.
douchiness aside, i wouldn’t ordinarily read into this situation, but this is a book that knows just what it’s doing; it’s deceptively slight, with short, scattershot paragraphs telling a story but also working double-time with tonal subtext (is that a thing?)(and if it is, is it douchey?), building emotional atmosphere in scenes that seem innocently everyday on the surface, but low-level ominous when viewed as a whole.
My son comes in to show me something. It looks like a pack of gum, but it’s really a trick. When you try to take a piece, a metal spring snaps down on your finger. “It hurts more than you think,” he warns me.
i mean, it’s not foreshadowing, this isn’t chekhov’s gum gag or anything, but many of the book’s short paragraphs could stand alone as prose poems, building emotional weight, meaning more than their simplicity appears, hindsight and subtext and yadda, oh my.
i’d heard wonderful things about this author, but had never read her before, and when my back said “no” about getting out of bed last week**, i figured this would be a good opportunity to check her out; a one-
sittinglying book about a lapsed-academic turned librarian responding to the questions of inhabitants of a world on the precipice of disaster, and trying to hold it all together whilst her personal life also unravels.
and it is gooooood.
May You Be Among the Survivors.
* which i just realized is on page 169—i.e. the page before that quote, so i’m pointing the finger of textual support, BOOM!
** and before you ask—all of this handwringing about ARE THEY OR ARE THEY NOT TYPOS??? was before i gobbled the pain pills.
a wonderful single-sitting book to read when a busted back keeps you abed.
review to come.